View Full Version : POWs, MIAs honored at Fort Irwin Ceremony

09-19-2010, 04:44 AM
POWs, MIAs honored at Fort Irwin Ceremony

September 17, 2010

BARSTOW • Fort Irwin soldiers, former prisoners of war and their families gathered around a small table set for one at Fort Irwin on Friday morning.

The table with a lit candle and inverted glass was set for those missing in action and prisoners of war who will never be able to sit there. These men were honored in a ceremony at Fort Irwin Friday, including Barstow native, resident, and prisoner of war David Villafana, who was properly presented with a purple heart medal that he received in the mail earlier this year.

Villafana was joined at the ceremony by two of his fellow Korean War prisoners, Wilber “Shorty” Estabrook and Martin Tullio. The three man are part of “Tiger’s survivors,” a group of Korean War POWs who suffered under the same brutal commander known only as Tiger.

“We are like a family,” said Villafana. “Only we understand each other like lost brothers.”

Fort Irwin soldiers spoke at the ceremony about the history and significance of the POW/MIA flag and the history of the purple heart medal, the country’s oldest military award established by George Washington. Estabrook helped to petition congress to make all prisoners of war eligible for Purple Heart medals.

“Before only bleeding wounds were accepted,” Estabrook. “Brutal treatment at the hands of your captors wasn’t taken into account.”

Vietnam War prisoner Tony Marshall was also honored at the ceremony. He said that events like Friday’s ceremony are important for young soldiers and veterans alike.

“This is a fantastic day,” said Marshall. “Some of us in the military had good times and some had a lot worse times. These days it seems like the prevailing attitude is to say ‘no’ to the military, we want to let these young soldiers know that this is an honorable profession.”

Fort Irwin soldiers in period uniforms also took part in the ceremony to represent those missing in action during past conflicts. A total of 83,824 soldiers remain missing in action, with 74,074 from World War II, 8,025 from the Korean War, 1,713 from the Vietnam War, 125 from the cold war, and 12 from the recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.